Micropayments are a nightmare for many modern computer and mobile games. They are intended to be a little help to players who can not spend many hours on getting the desired item. However, in practice, this system often changes into so-called pay-to-win model. That’s why the gaming community reacted very badly to the news of a patent owned by Activision.
Many games, especially free ones, have a problem with the micropayment system. One of the exceptions here is Niantic’s Pokemon GO where the players buy items to accelerate and facilitate the game, but persistent player does not have to spend anything. It is not a problem if micropayments allows players to buy fancy skins, which give only a visual effect. However, in many games, players are encouraged to buy weapons or items that improve their character stats, which greatly influences the balance of the game. In this case, players who do not choose to buy real money items will have no chance of dealing with opponents who have made such purchases.
Activision has filed a patent application that describes an algorithm that encourages players to use micropayments.
The bad balance of the micropayment system is very risky. The game may get a pay-to-win category, which immediately discourages new players. People who have already spent their money quickly become discouraged because the game is no longer fun. In turn, the algorithm developed by the Activision studio encourages players to spend money in quite a way. Its foundation is a suitable player selection system. For example, this algorithm chooses the team to include both inexperienced and experienced players (of course also with the same class of characters). In this way, a new player will be encouraged to buy items that skilled ally already have. The second mechanism is even more interesting. It describes a method that involves selecting opponents so that the newly purchased item would be extremely effective against them. After such a game, the player is convinced that this purchase was a good investment, so will be willing to spend more money in the game.
Activision has commented the situation. An outpatient patent was filed in 2015 by their research and development team. They were not involved in work on the game studio. These algorithms have not been implemented in any game. However, gamers are afraid that this kind of solutions may appear in future multiplayer games.